By Nadine Saad
Before you read that next email, pause.
Pre-coaching, I used to work in lobbying. One of the most fun parts of this job, for me, was working on organising events where we hosted fairly high-profile politicians. There was an exciting buzz in the build-up to these events, and a great feeling of satisfaction when they turned out to be a success.
But naturally, given the level of detail needed to make sure everything sailed smoothly on the day, this kind of work brought about an inevitable amount of stress.
In the lead-up to one such event, I remember checking my work phone on my way home at the end of a busy, stressful day - only to discover a source of yet more stress.
It was just what I needed.
An after-hours email, with last-minute demands that I didn't think we had enough time to accommodate. Delivered (I thought) in a critical tone.
Of course, my nervous system responded to what I was perceiving. Fight-or-flight mode kicked in immediately. My stress levels shot up further, my mind started racing defensively, and I tensed up physically.
When we experience fight-or-flight stress responses, the thinking part of the brain shuts down and the more reactive part takes charge. Our focus can narrow into "tunnel vision" - which doesn't just affect our sight, but our thinking and hearing too. This isn't exactly ideal for digesting the information we're receiving clearly, or responding to it effectively.
And yes, this can absolutely happen with everyday situations of heightened stress. It happens more often than we perhaps realise.
Fortunately, my intuition told me not to respond, to put the phone away and deal with said email the next morning.
Thankfully, I listened to this inner voice.
The next morning, I revisited the email pensively. I was fully expecting that I would need to respond with a diplomatic push-back. But I was feeling calmer, and therefore much clearer. And this time, I read through the email more slowly and carefully.
To my surprise, it felt like I was reading a completely different email. There was no criticism whatsoever in the tone. I saw no demands. Instead, I found a great suggestion.
When I read the same words whilst already in stress mode, more stress was triggered. But when I approached this message in a calmer state, I could digest what was written more clearly and accurately.
This just goes to show the importance of approaching communication mindfully, and with presence.
When we rush through things, especially if we're in a state of high stress, we miss out on important details, and miscommunications can happen that much more easily.
Of course, it's important not to blame or judge ourselves here. We've all experienced moments like this.
But before you read that next email, stop. Breathe. Slow down. Become present. If it can't wait, at least give yourself a pause before getting back to it. And read it more mindfully.
The same goes for social media content and personal messages.
That little bit of mindfulness will help you digest them and respond with more clarity and calm - avoiding unnecessary stress and helping you communicate with others more effectively too.
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